Scott, Susan V. and Zachariadis, M. (2010) A historical analysis of core financial services infrastructure: Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). Working paper series, 182. Information Systems and Innovation Group, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
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Research in this article traces the origins of a not-for-profit financial institution the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (S.W.I.T.). Swift is a core part of the financial services infrastructure and widely regarded as the most secure trusted third party network in the world serving 200 countries with over 8000 users. Our analysis focuses on how the design and current state of SWIFT was influenced by its historical origins. In order to ensure widespread compatibility in a sector experiencing asynchronous technological development, legacy Telex specifications had to be accommodated in SWIFT’s design. Over time, what began as a closed “society” founded to reduce errors and increase efficiency in inter-bank payments grew into an industry co-operative supporting an enthusiastic community of practice and transformed into an unexpected network phenomenon. SWIFT achieved such success that it has been accused of being an installed base stifling innovation. In recent years, SWIFT has had to institute new categories of membership in an effort to counter concerns about its bank dominated governance and it continues to search for ways to meet the requirements of key constituents in the financial supply chain.
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